Yup, here I am again with another story. In between getting rejection letters from agents for my sci-fi book, I'm posting these stories to convince myself that it's all about the telling, not about the making an official career out of it. Funny thing is, I've wanted to do an X-Files story for about... twenty years.
Anywyay, here's my latest:
Title: Frumentum Ex Spatio
Rating: Rated T \ Teen and Up for blood and gore.
Mulder and Scully are sent to Louisiana to help a local agent investigate alleged animal attacks. He wants proof, she wants everyone to live to tell the tale, and the local agent wants… Well, that’s the real story, isn’t it? Flashlights, government-issue Glocks, a-walking in the woods, bodily damage and hurt\comfort. A little MSR\Sculder for those into gratuitous fanservice.
I do not own The X Files or any of the characters. This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good.
Characters: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, a little Walter Skinner, and an OC or few.
Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.
If you even visit the page, I thank you.
Actually done some more writing. I’m still working on getting my own novel published, but since that’s going slower than an asthmatic ant carrying heavy shopping, this is tiding me over.
Ladies, gentlemen, boths and neithers, I give you:
Title: In Plain Sight
Rating: Rated T/Teen and Up for some evil intent, a bit of blood, and of course some good old fashioned fisticuffs.
An old friend needs some legal representation from Nelson and Murdock, but perhaps the others in the case are the ones you need to watch. Set after season 1, so contains spoilery references. Episodicly canontastic. I don’t do slash and you can’t make me. That’s just who I am.
I do not own Daredevil or any of the characters. I DO NOT condone violence in any form. This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good.
Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, an OC or few and Claire Temple. Bad guys, alley ways, some bodily damage and hurt/comfort.
Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.
If you even visit the page, I thank you.
Once upon a time, when my age was in single figures and life was much simpler, I wrote stories. Made-up, convoluted, sheerly-for-fun stories. When I was nine years old, I wrote my first fan fiction (although I’m not sure that word had yet been invented). It featured Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson and Mrs Hudson, and it bore witness to Mr Holmes bemoaning the lack of a case or in fact anything of interest to a visiting Watson. What it taught me was that (1) it wasn’t necessarily Holmes who was bored of life, and (2) I loved doing it. However, it would be a full five or six years before I would have access to something called a word processor, manufactured by the Raytheon Corporation, and I began making up my own stories in earnest.
Apparently, if you’re an author trying to get a book published, everything. And I’m not talking about the title of your book. Wait, back up - we need context
A lot of things came next. Eventually I ended up living overseas, and had finally (through either luck or unconscious planning) secured myself a flat for one. I had come from a large family and the tenancy of a near-empty flat with no-one in it but myself was pure magic. I knew very few people and I liked it that way; I threw myself into writing in my spare time.
However, while I was typing away on what today would be considered an antique Sony Vaio laptop, I was conscious that my own stories were vapid, meandering, and definitely lacking in anything that might be called ‘plot’ even if you squinted a bit and tilted your head when studying them - but that was ok. After all, I was just writing for fun, for myself. No-one ever saw my output.
It came to be that a good friend of mine shared a love of good old-fashioned telly from old Blighty, and so we purchased a boxed set of Sharpe and got watching, beers on hand.
We went through the entire box. And in 2006, I wrote no less than four separate Sharpe stories - or fan fiction. These were published on a website I ran, and then later on, were added to the FanFiction archive. I received reviews. I read them. I read them again. And then I realised just how poor my writing was.
There was absolutely no doubt about the plots; they whisked along and questions were answered, puzzles were solved, some people died and some people were saved, and the story went pretty much the way of every episode in the telly series. No, what was poor was my actual writing. The language, the execution, the (mis)use of format - the basics that made it easy to read. But did I give up? Fuck, no. I kept right on writing and learning. Next came Doctor bloody Who and a total of eleven stories, plus two crossovers. I could see the improvement, and I could appreciate the constructive criticism that came with them all. I was very grateful people were bothering to read my work at all, and I made every effort to make every page of every story - every paragraph - the best that I could.
Round about December of 2007 I switched fandoms. I didn’t turn my back on Doctor Who, but I was running woefully short of things I could put the Doctor through. And so my new virtual voodoo dolls for torture became the brothers Winchester, of Supernatural fame. This time it was a case of fifty-one stories plus four crossovers - and I’m not sure I’m done with them yet. It also heralded my first script, my first semi-lucid experiment in abstract word art, my first out-and-out comedy farce, my first poem-like satire, the development of the ‘Sam rolled his eyes’ game, and some great feats of stretching in terms of actual writing skill and execution. In short, I loved it and some of those stories are still by far the best work I’ve done.
There were other stories, too, though. A brief bit of fun with an A-Team story, two Farscape stories, and even an Enterprise story (although that last one still makes me cringe, and every time I see it’s still there I want to delete it). A quick go with Burn Notice (which I still like myself), and then two Avengers stories (focusing exclusively on Hawkeye and Black Widow being badasses). Then came new obsessions, and a crossover between Supernatural and Constantine was as timely as it was fun. The most recent piece was a solo Constantine story, and I’m still very fond of that one.
I did bemoan in an earlier post the state of my current writing skill level. I was whining about how I thought the magic had all gone, that my stories now were flat, boring, dull and pretty much worthless. That I could see the ending a mile off, which meant any reader would too, and it was a monumental waste of my time to produce more stories when, looking back, I had written such exciting and well-executed pieces that felt like they worked on several levels at once. When I re-read parts of some of these, I’m reminded of how good I was, whilst riding the high of enthusiasm and fun.
So here’s where we are: one million, three hundred and twenty-seven thousand and six hundred words (give or take fifty) in nine years. Plus the eight books I have written, coming to around one million, three hundred and forty-nine thousand and two hundred words in themselves - and that was over the same time span. That means that, on average, I’ve written nearly three hundred thousand words a year for nine years. That’s just over eight hundred words a day - every single day.
Put like that, I seem like quite the writer.
What of these eight books I’ve written? Where can you find them online or at a bookshop? You can’t. I’ve been trying on and off for the past four years to get the first of the sci-fi books published, and lately the stand-alone high-concept novel taken by an agent. As previously discussed, I’ve gone from getting very nicely-worded and appreciated rejection letters to being completely ignored by agents altogether. This is after I’ve taken advice from a book doctor, an agent herself, two books written by agents on how to get them, and countless blogs and online articles written by agents. All the submissions were to agents who said they were looking for the type of writing I thought I was pretty good at, and all of them were sent my work exclusively, one at a time. I was beginning to think that it wasn’t them but me - that I was completely shit and the old net myth of fan fiction writers being legends in their own minds was true (especially after certain arguably poorly-written ‘yummy mummy’ semi-porn novels have been published since with great fanfare). In short, it dawned on me that perhaps my work was simply badly written, and it was being turned down or just blatantly ignored due to its crappiness, not because of anything I had or hadn’t done in the submission process.
And then I saw an article that popped up on my tumblr dash. Someone else, a woman who had been successfully published herself, had shared a news story she had read. I read it too. And then I got angry and not only reblogged it, but then debated what to do about it as it pertained to me.
Female Novelist Learns How Far a Male Pen Name Can Take Her, an article over at the Mary Sue, left me stunned. (Short version: she submitted under a fake man’s name and got instant replies and even - GASP - taken up on her book. Repeatedly.) I was shocked, and I was angry. Why shocked? I had a sneaking feeling that this kind of thing still went on, but until I saw actual figures, I was reluctant to put much stock in it. Angry? I was all shades of raging. Why should anyone have to change their name to even get looked at? Why should someone’s identity make a difference?
I did what any other English woman would have done after having read the article; I made a cup of tea. As I was waiting for it to cool sufficiently for me to drink, a lot of shouting went through my head. Should I change my name the next time I send my novel out? Should I take on a man’s name to get my novel read? Should I just keep to using my first initial only, and keep hoping for the best? And then the other side of the coin hit me: wait - why should I? I shouldn’t have to hide my identity to get ahead. I shouldn’t have to invent a Remington Steele just so someone would read my words. None of this was reasonable. And yet I was contemplating it anyway.
Because the Laura Holt part of me was thinking it through. What if I did send it away under a man’s name? And what if they did write back asking for the entire novel to read? And what if, after that, they wanted to offer me representation? Well then the jig would be up, surely. There would be a face-to-face meeting and they would instantly discover that I am not the Remington Steele they were expecting.
But then the Alan Shore part of me shouts “A-haa! It’s not for me to justify why I had to use a man’s name to get read - it’s up to them to justify why, when meeting me, they are disappointed that I’m not a man!”
The Spock part of me spots flaws in this logic. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to send it to an agent under only a man’s name, and then get all high and mighty when they do read and ask for more of the novel. Mainly because they never saw it under my actual name, so I have just assumed they wouldn’t even read it under my own name and skipped the part that would have made it fair. Then again, you can’t send it to them twice. This precludes any kind of fair chance and goes straight for the 50/50 chance of being read, instead of the 1/50.
And again, put that way, am I really going to be so stubborn that I refuse to improve my odds of getting read? That in just calling myself Bob or Dave or Richard instead of my first initial would give me a one-in-two chance of getting read?
But that’s not the real question at all. What it comes down to is this: does using a pen name to ‘fool’ agents into reading your work count as lying? Are you tricking someone into reading something, making their unconscious prejudices work for you? And if you are, does that constitute a lie, or a con, on your part? Or a self-inflicted wound to their reputation? Are you helping to perpetuate these prejudices by using them to aid yourself?
And that last paragraph, ladies, gentlemen, both and neithers, is where I come to a full stop. Using the system to my advantage only keeps the system in place; not using it means I never accomplish what I want, and what I have wanted, since I was nine years old. I morally can’t do one, and I physically can’t do the other. It comes down to how much of me cares about changing the system for others. How much do I want to stick it to The Man? And do I want it more than my book(s) published?
One thing is for certain: I’m going to need more tea.
You know I like the show Constantine, right? You know I have to rant about the unfairness that is NBC cancelling the show and releasing all of its cast and crew from their contracts, right? Right. Just so we’re under no illusions as to what this post will be about.
Let’s start at the beginning. Imagine you have the rights to make a show based on a comic book. Now imagine that this comic cook has a long-standing, loyal fanbase. Imagine those fans have access to a TV and a cable\broadband connection, and in all likelihood subscribe to some kind of entertainment package to watch whatever they want on said TV. How much of a stretch would it be to imagine that these fans might want to give your new show a go, and if they approved, would talk about it non-stop on social media and to their real life friends?
So you make the show. You do a bit of market research and find that there aren’t that many shows on telly these days that would fall into the same category. One of the copyright owners, WB, turns out to have a show somewhat similar in appearance but completely different in actuality, on one of its subsidiary channels, the CW. You have a think and decide that, because of the time and effort everyone’s put into bringing the show to life - not least of the all the excellent cast including, some would say, the real life embodiment of the main character himself - you’ll bury it in the ‘graveyard’ spot (so named because shows get put in that time slot to die).
The first episode gets mixed reviews; you feel disappointed. So disappointed, in fact, that you order the season to be cut from 23 episodes to just 13. After all, you have to mitigate your losses, right? So the viewers and fans are upset. Who cares? What matters is that you’ve just ensured you lose less money that you’ve projected. Now you sit back and watch the ratings, week by week. But you don’t advertise the show, you don’t go out of your way to boost these ratings in any way. It’s almost like you don’t want to do the job you’re paid to do, and certainly looks exactly like you want the show to fail.
But the fans. Ah, those irksome fans. They get together on Twitter, on tumblr, on Facebook. They conspire to get the name of the show, and the fact that everyone needs to ‘save’ the show, trending. And it doesn’t stop there - cast and crew join in, because hey, why not - it’s only their jobs, their livelihoods, after all. Ratings increase episode by episode. Not dramatically, but enough to convince everyone that it’s worth more than it’s getting. So you change the time slot, bring it forward an hour, without advertising it. That’ll confuse the viewers, right? I mean, once they tune in and find out they’ve missed it, they’ll just forget all about it, surely.
You’ve forgotten streaming, my friend, and the revenue you get from it. Now you have to factor that into how successful it’s becoming, not to mention all those secondary ratings from people who hear about it through someone doing a tweet-along and then get snared as viewers too. Damn those social media platforms.
Then you find that someone in Marketing has done for that show what they do for all your other shows; they’ve gone and made some merchandise. Granted, it’s only two shirts, and granted, they’re only for men, but look at how many they’ve gone and sold! Idiots. Now you have to stop any more merchandise being produced lest you generate income from that, too. Who wants the merchandise to become popular so that you end up not only making money from it, but advertising the show as well? It’ll have to be stopped otherwise you’ll never get this show cancelled.
Did I say cancelled? I meant buried.
Now then, knowing that the (shortened) season is coming to a close, you keep a steady eye on the ratings. Once they’ve out-performed several other shows across rival networks, then you can announce that they just weren’t high enough, and give everyone a good reason to cancel the show. But to forestall any fan fury, you just say that the show has been put on the back-burner, that you can bring it back at any time - say, if the new Autumn shows don’t attract high enough ratings before the Christmas break. That will keep the fans happy, right?
Sigh. Obviously not. The fans keep writing in - taking the time to use actual pens and real paper - and they’re emailing, and calling network executives, and they’re sending in weird things like the nine of diamonds playing cards and red ties. It’s all very weird. Basically they don’t seem happy about the show being caught in limbo. But who cares - you can cancel it next week anyway.
And you do. It gets canned. Cast and crew are freed from their contracts. They go their separate ways, like good little soldiers. The network is happy - they’ve got rid of it at last. Now they can concentrate on the shows that will make them money. Because making money out of your shows is how you survive as a network.
But make sure there’s no merchandise to sell, lads. Can’t have us making money out of a show we’ve already cancelled. Wait - who sold it to Amazon Prime and iTunes? Idiots - now people can spend money on it to buy the series. Now even more money will come in. Oh but wait a minute - make sure you don’t, whatever you do, produce or sell a DVD or - gasp! - a blu ray with extras on it. Got that stopped? Phew! Good work, troops. We very nearly ended up receiving more revenue from this show through very little expenditure.
Done imagining all that? Wow - you have a very vivid imagination, and one to be proud of, not to mention good concentration.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine, because that’s exactly what happened (well, mostly). And here’s why I’m angry:
At any time, NBC, you could have realised that you’d made a commitment and thought about actually backing that up with advertising, with an effort to promote the show and get some good beginner’s ratings. At any time you could have decided that you no longer wanted the show and cut yourself free - by selling it to another network or one of your subsidiaries. The CW wouldn’t have been a perfect fit but it would have been a start. AMC would have been perfect, seeing as they’re currently still enjoying a ratings hit with The Walking Dead. HBO would have turned the show into more of its comic book origins and less about toning it down for the audience - great. Netflix would have grabbed that ball and run with it so fast you’d regret letting it go. But hey, you failed to back your own show and you failed to sell it as a going concern. But see, it wasn’t just your loss - it was the fans’, too.
I shall add the back story of this show to the shelf with the others - Farscape, Firefly, 17th Precinct, the Dresden Files. Perhaps it’s just me - perhaps I have a unerring ability to pick out shows destined to lose, and then invest in them emotionally until they are actually pronounced dead and buried. Perhaps I should watch all the other shit that keep the networks afloat. Then again, maybe I should just ignore NBC and their banal, bland offerings of entertainment and stick to the things I like. Yeah, think I’ll do that.
The funny thing is, that show I mentioned on the CW? Yeah. Supernatural was in danger of being cancelled so many times over the years, and yet it’s now prepping for its eleventh season. The amount of merchandise and fan support is astronomical. Guess where all that money is going? Yes, NBC - not you.
That’s it; I’m done. I’m not even close to over NBC deliberately trying to make no money out of its own show. I’m not nearly over the way they’ve left the end of the season hanging and now we’ll never find out what happens next. I’m not even remotely thinking about forgiving them for letting this show go.
This is one you can’t just let go. It’s not the time.
Yes, here we are again. Bumps in the road come and go, but favourite (and obsessive) shows are forever. I’ve done the first three episodes of Constantine, but I’ve fallen behind in so many things. John Constantine will not be one of them. Onwards and upwards, my friends - it’s time for three themes:
Here be SPOILERS for Constantine series 1 episode 4!
Hellblazer fans will already recognise the storyline from, funnily enough, Hellblazer #001. And John ‘teaching’ Zed how to let go and use her psychic abilities to travel a network - like John floats the synchronicity highway? We get a mention of Newcastle early on, and the showrunners don’t gloss over the fact that Gary is still a skeevy drug addict. (Excellent casting, by the way - JonJo O’Neill is the perfect hapless shifter who just wants to do good - and if that’s by way of another fix, then all the better.) John comes over as a bit of a hardass on poor Gary - he’s judgemental of his addict ways, he refuses his help at every turn, he tells him to his face that he’s the last person he’d ever want to help him with anything. If this were the comic, it’d be because he either (1) knew he couldn’t trust Gary, or (2) wanted him as far aways as possible in a bid to keep him out of danger. From Matt Ryan’s face and body language, I’m going to go with option 1 here. It works.
Gary gives us the story of Newcastle, and inadvertently shows how everyone - the ‘crew’ they ran with back then - thought John was the dog’s bollocks and no-one could resist ‘a bit of black magic with the John Constantine’.
I like how the whole story has come out of bad luck - Gary just happens to be on the chore for a fix, so that he comes across the boy containing the demon in the first place. It’s typical Hellblazer for some poor soul to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
John’s speech about Gary and himself as younger men - people who use, people who run away, people who lose their way after shit hits the fan. This sets Gary up as both the story’s everyman who couldn’t take the big time (which is fair enough, considering what that actually was back in Newcastle) and also the waster character who just wants to be redeemed by coming through for once in his life.
Zed: she wants to see the good in people, she wants Gary to turn over a new leaf and impress John, I think so Zed can show she’s right and John is wrong about people being unable to change. It’s an interesting thought from both sides - even though she appears to be hiding out with John and Chas from her ‘real life’, she still thinks the best of people until proven wrong. John is used to the shittier side of people’s natures though - he’s fully prepared for everyone to be bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling (something I have to agree with).
And Nommo is the mysterious shaman dude with all the answers. (I like this character, and the actor, Charles Parnell. It’d be nice if he were to come back at some point.)
We have Manny and his sudden appearances, to first of all check that John is still on the path to tracking down the series arc the Rising Darkness, while simultaneously giving us some insight into Zed’s abilities and where they may or may not stem from. Sowing the seeds for much later on, as it turns out.
Gary: being the addict is obvious. But he’s also using people to find some way to atone for running away and hiding at Newcastle. John, the manipulator of people, using small victories to make himself feel some tiny amount of satisfaction that he’s managed to erase a little of the red in his ledger. Zed, the psychic, using her abilities to help, but also perhaps using Gary’s presence to get some answers about John’s past. Mnemoth the hunger demon is the only straightforward one here, who isn’t using someone or something else for ulterior motives. You could argue that it’s the only pure character here. Even Nommo uses psychotropics to get his answers, and in doing that perhaps cements John’s trust in him and what he can do. I’m sure Nommo would have no qualms about leaning on John for a favour in the future based on this episode.
When we do get to the last act and we see what John’s got up his sleeve, Gary is not angry. In fact he seems appreciative; is he awed by John’s offer of a point to using Gary’s life (and death) for good, or is he just glad of a way out, a way to be off the hook for Newcastle, in a way that makes him a hero?
The third time Manny appears he comes to sit with John over the agonising death that Gary is going through piece by piece. Does he want to help John, or does he want to be there at the end for poor Gary, to maybe take his soul when it’s freed? Perhaps he’s just using this opportunity to see what John is capable of, for future adventures? It certainly is ambiguous, and anyone who grew up on Farscape will see the potential for mass mood whiplash around the corner.
Zed: People can change, you know.
John: Bollocks. We are who we are. Eventually.
John: You know what I always say, Gaz. Everyone has the capacity to change.
Gary: I’ve never heard you say that before.
Zed: Gary loved you and you betrayed him!
John: You think I wanted this? I told you: people around me die. If you can’t handle it, then go.
It was a full episode, and it was a well-planned one. This was not a procedural drama in the sense that it did not seek to solve the problem of the demon Mnemoth, but rather open up the can of worms that was Gary’s life and John’s part in it all. Gary was a very welcome addition to the mill house, and JonJo O’Neill was very well used. We got a range of pissed-off expression from John, and the oh fuck no face that is starting to become a warning that he’s about to lose patience with the turd-burp part of his universe. He also unleashes a few new epithets (and I am enjoying the Englishness of his swearing. It’s so nice to hear it being used in US telly) without being a stereotype. I liked Zed’s two cents, questioning John where other people may not have felt educated enough on the context, or perhaps intimidated by all the shit he pulls with magic (like randomly having the original Taba’at Shlomo at his disposal to carve the seal of Solomon into a handy glass bottle). When she feels she has to step in she’s not afraid to do so, and I like that about her. She also has to deal with Gary’s come-downs first-hand, and she copes pretty well for someone who’s never ‘dabbled’ with drugs. She continues to challenge and question, and that’s forcing John to evaluate things more clearly. I like it.
So, marks out of ten? I’d give this one an eight - for not shying away from doing what it had to in the end. I wish it could have gone a little further, but this is NBC not HBO (or AMC). Pity. Still, we have plenty more episodes to go. I may even do another one tonight.
Peach and lube, everyone! Peach and lube.